Gestational Diabetes and Breastfeeding

By Jenn Leckie

January 3, 2019

I am a Registered Nurse with over 10 years in maternal health and labour & delivery, Lactation Counselor, and Sleep Coach working with families in Langley, Surrey, and Abbotsford. I am a Mama to an amazing little boy and one fur baby.

It can be a shock if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes during your pregnancy.  This is usually a temporary condition. During this time your body needs extra help to have enough insulin to meet your needs while pregnant.  It is usually diagnosed after the glucose tolerance test in your fourth month of pregnancy. Having gestational diabetes puts babe at risk of newborn hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and jaundice. So how can we help to prevent that?

Your baby will be prone to hypoglycaemia during the first few days after birth.  Your baby is used to relatively high levels of sugar before he is born therefore produces a higher level of insulin after birth. This can lead to a drop in blood sugar.  Skin to skin contact and early frequent breastfeeding will help to avoid this concern. The hospital you deliver at will be monitoring baby’s blood sugar closely after birth. Typically this is a sugar check at two hours of age and then again before breastfeeding until the sugar is normal and stable.  

For most mothers, colostrum is the first food that babe receives from breastfeeding. Colostrum is yellow in colour and is known as “liquid gold”. It is full of immunoglobulins that provide the frame work for your baby’s immune system. Colostrum is low in volume but very high in calories. It normally takes three to four days after birth for the mother’s milk to come in. Getting skilled in breastfeeding earlier on can help ease this transition and encourages the milk to come in sooner.  Make sure you hold your baby against your skin after birth and the first day so he can breastfeed as soon as possible and often. In the first 24 hours of life aim to breastfeed 8-12 times for approximately 30 mins each feed or longer.    

Expressing Colostrum During Pregnancy

During the last few weeks of pregnancy you can express and store some colostrum with a discussion and approval from your health care provider.  This expressed colostrum can be given to baby if he needs extra sugar due to hypoglycemia after birth. So how do you do this? Start by always washing your hands and preferably after a warm shower.  Sit up in a comfortable chair and lean slightly forward. Massage your breast from the base to the nipple to help stimulate a “let down.” Gently press your pointer finger and your thumb towards your chest wall, press together and hold for a few seconds.  Your fingers should not touch or squeeze your nipple. Think “press, hold, release, repeat.” Collect the colostrum into a syringe as you see it appear at the end of your nipple. Don’t be discouraged if you see none when you first start, it takes time and practice.  Label with date and time each syringe and stored in the freezer for three months or the deep freeze for six months.

Hand expression at the end of your pregnancy helps moms feel more comfortable with expressing and handling their breasts prior to their babe arriving. A new baby is a STEEP learning curve and learning to breastfeed is a process. Practice hand expressing prior to baby’s arrival and you will find the comfort level you already have with hand expression has a significant impact on your comfort level breastfeeding your baby.  Find a Mama Coach in your area  for more help and guidance on antenatal hand expression before your little one arrives.

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